Written by Peter Redebaugh
Usually when the Maple Forest student section storms the court after a buzzer beater shot sinks through the basket, one would think that the game would result in a Seaholm victory.
But after a wild turn of events in Wednesday’s District semi-final, the Maples were left in shock after an apparent game-winning score was ruled off, resulting in a 46-45 loss that pre-maturely ended their season.
In a game that had been going back and forth for the entire night, Seaholm and their cross-town rival Groves found themselves tied at 45 with 17.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following a timeout Groves senior guard Grant Henderson drove to the basket and was fouled with 8.2 remaining on the clock.
Henderson sank the first free throw giving Groves the 46-45 lead but went on to miss the second shot.
The rebound was hauled in by Seaholm junior Paris Bass, and this is where all the pandemonium began.
Bass began to dribble the ball up the court with the seconds draining away, but Bass had no sense of urgency. After dribbling he stopped and hesitated, attempting to call a timeout, then continued to bring the ball up the court, now with a sense of urgency.
Once Bass reached half-court there were less than four seconds left and he attempted to call another timeout.
“I tried to call a timeout twice,” Bass said. “But once I didn’t get [the timeout] I made eye contact with my coach and he signaled me to keep going.”
Once he realized that the referees weren’t going to award the timeout, he heaved up a miracle shot from just over mid-court. Bass’ shot sunk through the basket, sending the gymnasium into frenzy with the Seaholm fans pouring onto the court and the Maple players rushed over to Bass.
But the students were quickly ushered back into the stands by school officials and the referees waived the basket off, stating that Seaholm Head Coach Jose Andrades had called a timeout with 1.2 seconds left.
After the timeout, senior captain Spencer Eick’s desperation heave from beyond half court bounced off the rim and as the Groves fans celebrated their district semi-final victory, the Seaholm faithful were left in shock.
It was a huge swing of momentum in such a short period of time, and left many Seaholm players devastated.
“The refs blew it,” senior forward Sterling Johnson said. “After the game our team watched the film 20 times and the ref didn’t put his hand up until Paris’ game winning shot was already heading down into the basket. It was really devastating knowing that the refs were the ones to decide the outcome of the game and not us.”
The interesting part of the timeout given at the end of the game was that the referee did not signal the timeout until after Bass’ shot had gone in the basket, which sparked much controversy following the game.
Andrades did not return messages left by Highlander staff; however Seaholm Athletic Director Aaron Frank witnessed the events courtside, and had a good view at what went on.
Frank, unsatisfied with the way the game had ended, wanted more of an explanation to what happened in the final seconds of the game. So he watched video footage of the end of the game from two different angles and now has his own idea of what he thinks happened in the final seven seconds of the game.
“As Paris comes in, he takes a long shot and at this point there was actually less than 1.2 seconds on the clock if you take a look,” Frank recalls. “When it is leaving his hands, the referee closest to our coach raises his arm to signal that it is a three point shot. Now, Jose is probably calling timeout, and my guess is that the official is hearing it, but thinking that he had to signal the three, and then he blows his whistle and waives off the shot as it goes through and the buzzer goes off. I think that the official heard and recognized that Jose was trying to call a timeout, but didn’t get it in before he signaled the shot, and actually blow the whistle until the shot had left.”
This, according to Frank, means that the shot could have technically counted for Seaholm, resulting in a victory.
“The actual correct call is that the basket should count because it had left the players hand before the timeout had been formally taken,” Frank said. “You cannot stop play during a loose ball.”
But Frank also described that there is an exception for this rule that is commonly used.
“However,” Frank said. “As you’ll notice in every level of basketball there are many times when the coach is attempting to call a timeout, the referee hears it, but doesn’t signal it until the next thing is already transpiring. And in those cases the refs will stop play and say ‘no this was happening when he called the timeout.’”
After the game, Frank asked for an interpretation of the final play by his friend Rick Jackson, an NCAA official. Jackson went on to explain to Frank the complexity of what happened in those waning moments.
“[Jackson] told me that you often hear the timeout being called, but before you have actually blown the whistle and signaled [the timeout], the next thing happens in a tenth of a second and so you have to take it back one step to when the timeout was called and where you heard it,” Frank said.
If that was the case on Wednesday evening, the referee technically would have justifiable reasoning for ruling off Bass’ shot.
Despite the game being between two cross-town rivals, Groves Head Coach Scott Sheckell claims that his players didn’t need that for motivation.
“The rivalry is fun,” Sheckell said. “But it’s a district game, so no matter who you play you are going to fight like heck to try and win it…I thought it was evenly played and both teams showed unbelievable grit and hustle… [Seaholm] didn’t do anything to deserve to lose, it was one of those games where both teams deserved to win and unfortunately someone has to go home.”
Despite coming out on the winning end of this game, Sheckell knows what it’s like to be on the losing end of highly contested games.
“After you play and coach for a while you are on both ends of it,” Sheckell said. “I really feel for the Seaholm coach and the Seaholm players because it’s terrible when you end up losing a close game like that.”
Unfortunately for the Maples, they ended up on the losing end this time, which something very hard to swallow for the players.
“The Groves game was disappointing,” Eick said. “Our goal was to win districts and losing our first game was not fun. It was a huge bummer to finish my basketball career losing to Groves.”
Sheckell, who was a teacher of Eick’s at Quarton Elementary School, has much respect for his game.
“I’ve always loved watching Spencer play,” Sheckell said. “I’ve followed his career closely and he is fun to watch.”
After the buzzer sounded on Eick’s Seaholm career he showed his school pride by going down and kissing the Seaholm logo at Mid-court, in what was his final game as a Seaholm Maple.
“It was a great experience playing Seaholm basketball,” said Eick. “It was a lot of fun and hard work. I will miss playing basketball for Seaholm.”